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PAX, LUX ET VERITAS SINCE 1965
Post More on Catalonia's Referendum: Responses to John E
Created by John Eipper on 11/12/14 2:15 PM

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More on Catalonia's Referendum: Responses to John E (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela, 11/12/14 2:15 pm)

When commenting on my post of 11 November, John Eipper posed several questions and assessments surrounding the 9 November "referendum" in Catalonia. I will try to answer them here.

First John commented: "The obvious difference between the turnout in Scotland vs Catalonia is that in the former case, the referendum was legal and binding." Those are not the only obvious differences. For reasons I explained in my former post, the Catalonian "referendum" lacked a democratic basis, while the Scottish vote was most probably not only legal and binding but also organized and executed democratically.

He asked, "But what about the accusations of irregularities?" In my comments, I was not making any specific accusation of irregularities.  I just suggested that due to the informal way of executing the referendum, again for the reasons explained, there was a high risk for anomalies and irregularities, and consequently the results would most likely lack credibility. However, yesterday and today's newspapers have reported some cases of alleged irregularities.

John further asked: "And foreigners voted? Would, say, an American exchange student in Barcelona have been admitted to the polls?" I do not have specific response to this, however the possibility existed because the vote was granted to foreigners with more than three years of living in Catalonia. What I was trying to explain with my comments was that the potential electoral base in this "referendum" was even greater than the regular and official Electoral Roll, which has more than 6.4 million registered voters.

John also asked: "Is there any realistic possibility that Madrid will take action against those who voted? Did Rajoy make such a threat? How do you go about punishing 2.2 million scofflaws?" The Spanish government would not obviously take action against those who voted. What they are probably going to do is take legal actions against those who organized and promoted the illegal referendum, using public funds and resources to support it.

John stated, "'The results would have been different if more people had voted' argument doesn't reflect how elections work. Catalonia's 40% participation was actually higher than the 36.4% who voted a week ago in the United States. In Texas the turnout was 28%... So by that metric, the Catalonian vote was more representative than last Tuesday's contest in the United States."

I offer a slight amendment to the numbers expressed earlier. The so-called participation was only 36% (2.2 votes/6.4 registered official voters), according to Sunday's "official" results. Nevertheless, under the unlikely premise that the results are fair and representative, the question of legitimacy of representation is again somehow discredited by the fact that the "referendum" was called and promoted by independentists. These voters were probably the most motivated to express their will. Almost 2/3 of the electorate did not express opinion in such a important and delicate matter, compared to more than 90% in Scotland, or more than 80% in Quebec. For such an important issue, this is a very scarce representation.

JE comments:  My apologies to José Ignacio Soler for the delay in publishing this post.  It's been a busy day at the College.  I have written Jordi Molins for the Independentist perspective on Sunday's vote.  When I receive a response you'll read it here.


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  • Catalonia Referendum: "Catalonians Do Not Fear Madrid Anymore" (Jordi Molins, Spain 11/13/14 3:26 AM)
    Catalans voted on November 9th overwhelmingly in favor of independence: from a total slightly above 2.3 million, more than 80% chose outright independence, about 10% for a drastic change in the relationship between Catalonia and Spain (federation or confederation), and less than 5% preferred to keep the status quo.

    Going beyond the actual figures, the event was a major success. I was honored to be an assistant of the Electoral Council, and I had the opportunity to see with my own eyes the massive attendance at the ballot boxes that day: from Roma people to grandmas in wheelchairs; from families with their children to others, literally with tears in their eyes, voting in the name of somebody who could not make it that day. I could not stop working even for five minutes from 9am till 10pm.


    I want to dispel some of the assertions made on the voting procedure and the results themselves:


    --"Only 33% of the people who could have voted, actually voted for independence."  The current Spanish government of the Popular Party enjoys an absolute majority in the Spanish Parliament with votes amounting to about 30% "of the people who could have voted" in the last Spanish general elections. During the last Catalan Parliament elections, the Popular Party got a bit more than 400,000 votes. Compare that with the close to 1,900,000 votes supporting independence on Nov 9. "Common knowledge" before 9 Nov was that a total turnout below one million was a failure; between 1m and 1.5m, the central case scenario; between 1.5m and 2m, a complete success. Nobody even imagined a figure above 2m. Final turnout was 2.3m. The number of ballot boxes proved to be a limiting factor, with massive queues throughout Catalonia.


    Please take into account this event had been viciously attacked by the Spanish government, there were strong claims that the police and/or Spanish army would physically intervene during the day, Spanish army vehicles were abnormally circulating during the days before Nov. 9 along Catalan roads and cities, the extreme far-right had announced violent actions that day (which happened, but luckily with no serious consequences).  Many people were afraid to vote due to potential negative consequences on them, due to potential Spanish nationalist vengeance. There were massive digital attacks on the Catalan government servers that day (90% of all Internet attacks in Spain that day went towards the servers of the Catalan government, putting at risk basic services; that digital attack was the third biggest one worldwide on Nov 9; the high quality of those attacks suggested to some experts that the Spanish institutions were behind those attacks).  And despite that, the voting was a success.


    Finally, please recall the 9N was boycotted by the Unionist political parties (about 25% of the Catalan Parliament), so about a fourth of the total number of potential voters were heavily discouraged from voting.


    --"There was not a electoral roll for validation and identification of voters, so anyone could vote more than once."  This assertion is untrue. One of my tasks that day was to introduce the address of the DNI (Spanish ID card) and the ID number of the potential voter into a computer, to validate and to ensure that that ballot box was the (uniquely) assigned one for that potential voter. The reason is that due to a lack of census information (one of the many impediments put up by the Spanish government), a voter could only vote in a single building (usually, the closest one to his address).  In fact, I could see tears in the eyes of two old people, who could barely make it, and they could not vote since their official address was somewhere far away, and they did not have the physical strength to get to that location. In a "normal" election, these people could have voted normally, anywhere.


    In fact, we were told we had to be very strict in the application of the rules for voting. If we weren't 100% sure a person could vote, we should not allow that person to vote (as it happened to me, several times during the day; in most cases, it was obvious that person should be allowed to vote, but we were extremely conservative on the procedure).  It was clear that Spanish nationalists would try to hire actors in order to "game the system," and to be able to tell in the media the vote was rigged.


    Well, it did not happen that way, even once. The international observers of the 9N claimed the voting had been a success:





    http://www.vilaweb.cat/noticia/4219057/20141110/observadors-internacionals-certifiquen-lexit-proces-participatiu-fiabilitat-sistema-votacio.html



    Please observe that the Spanish government has not said there were voting irregularities during that day. Of course, they would have done so with gusto if it had happened. There has only been one reported event, by an extremist Spanish newspaper: somebody claimed to have voted three times. Once there has been an investigation, the truth is the following: three friends went to vote in three different places (each was assigned to vote in a different location).  The same person put the envelope with the vote inside the ballot boxes in the three cases. But the vote corresponded each time to a different person! During the day, many parents allowed their small children to put their envelopes inside the ballot box. I can imagine that if somebody said, "Hey, my friend wants to put the envelope inside the ballot box for my vote, he has never voted and he would like to do so, can he do that?" the responsible people on the ballot box would allow them to do so, if the voter had been registered successfully. That is the only incident that Spanish nationalists have been able to find during the whole day.


    A few days after 9N, the Spanish government keeps its narrow-minded attitude against basic rights of the Catalan people. It seems likely the Spanish government will use its full and indecent control of the Spanish Justice system to bring President Mas to court, which would disqualify him from being a candidate for the next Catalan elections.


    Anyway, Spain has lost the streets in Catalonia. As President Mas said yesterday, "Catalans do not fear Madrid anymore."


    JE comments:  Jordi Molins has convinced me that the Referendum was carried out very carefully (fiable i eficaç), with at least as much oversight as I would expect in my own precinct.  Michigan's turnout on November 4th was 42%.  The whole process took me less than ten minutes, including parking.  Would I have been willing to queue up for an hour or more?  Probably not.


    I'd like to hear more about the cyber attacks.  Is Jordi speculating that these were ordered from Madrid itself, or is it more likely the work of rogue Unionist hackers?



    My thanks to Jordi for his insider's exclusive.


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    • Catalonia Referendum (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/13/14 11:30 AM)
      Again I congratulate Jordi Molins for a job well done.

      If it is what it is, and I don't doubt it for a minute, Catalonians must go ahead and become what they want to be.


      In my view, Spain has been always a historical illusion, like many other Mediterranean people. Perhaps the time has come to put things in the way they should be. Too late perhaps.


      Spain was Spain perhaps under Philip II, a very stubborn monarch who started planting the seeds for decay and ruin by losing Portugal, losing control of the seas and by spreading injustice and fanatical religious behavior. After him, Spain nevertheless went into a downward spiral until today.


      What's next? What are the Basques waiting for?


      No matter what some authors say, I've been researching and found that in the Civil War the Basques clearly betrayed the Republic and directly or indirectly helped Franco and the Nationalists. At several times in 1937 they tried to make a separate peace with the Nationalists.  Anyway, everything ended pretty soon when by as early as the end of June 1937, less than a year after the war started, the entire Basque Country fell to the Nationalists.


      Anyway, sorry for going into other directions. For a minute I was just thinking and navigating in my writing.


      JE comments:  What about the vaunted "Cinturón de Hierro" (Iron Ring) around Bilbao, designed to keep out Franco's troops?  We visited some of the bunkers during our visit to the Basque Country in July.  Liked all fixed defenses of that time, they weren't very effective.


      http://es.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cinturón_de_Hierro_de_Bilbao


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      • Basque "Iron Ring" Fortifications (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/14/14 1:39 PM)

        The famous "Cinturón de Hierro" (Iron Belt) was designed by a Basque military engineer, Captain Alejandro Goicoechea. (See John E's comments on my post of 13 November.) He was an officer in the Spanish Army and if, at first, he remained loyal to the Republic, or more precisely to the Basque government, he defected to the Nationalists later on, in the spring of 1937, bringing with him the construction plans and detailed maps of the Iron Belt.


        After the war, Goicoechea became a rich businessman and successful engineer, spearheading the design of the only high-speed train ever made entirely in Spain: the "Talgo."


        Talgo has been a company with ups and downs, especially after Franco's death, but overall it has been successful. I believe they won some contracts for passenger trains in California and maybe Washington State, but I'm not sure.


        Anyway, the history of Basque politics is very complicated. Basques in exile worked and collaborated with the OSS and even FBI, hoping the US would help them to have their country. But certainly they were far apart from Communists and radical Socialists.


        JE comments:  Is there any relation between Capt. Alejandro Goicoechea and Antonio Goicoechea, the Monarchist who tried to get Mussolini's support for a Carlist uprising in 1934?


        Back to the Cinturón.  I can't resist a bunker, and in July we visited one of the placements in the mountains overlooking Bilbao. Here are the pix to prove it. It would be instructive to make a spreadsheet of all the billions wasted on defensive military fortifications in the 20th century. When was the last time a fort actually stopped a motivated attacker?




         





        Defending Bilbao:  Cinturón de Hierro, 17 July 2014


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      • Is Spain a "Historical Illusion"? Ortega y Gasset (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/16/14 4:29 AM)
        Antonio Candil in his post on Catalonia (13 November) made a very strong comment. My apologies, but I still do not grasp its meaning and I will appreciate some clarification. Anthony wrote: "In my view, Spain has been always a historical illusion, like many other Mediterranean people."

        I am very confused by what Anthony means by "historical illusion." Has it been an illusion for the more than 500 years for Spaniards and for the rest of the world? Is it an illusion now for the international community?  This might be so for him; however it is not an illusion for me and maybe 40 or 50 million Spaniards from many diverse regions in the country, who are very proud to be from Spain and its history, with all its flaws and historical mistakes.


        I understand that Antonio feels very proud to have become a US citizen.  I also would be, to the extent of even deciding to change names, but nothing deserves such a disrespectful assessment against his former country and fellow countrymen. Anthony's assessment seems to be that hundreds generations of people belonged to an "illusory" place called "Spain," a product of the imagination.


        Giving Anthony the benefit of the doubt, maybe he wanted to express that Spain has failed to consolidate the diversity of some regional cultures and peoples, historically Catalonia and more recently the Basques. That might be true, but even so it is debatable as I pointed out in a previous post when discussing this very same historical subject about Catalonia.


        Either way, honestly, Anthony's insistence on supporting the dismemberment of Spain is disturbing, stretching beyond legality or suggesting confrontations by force. "Perhaps the time has come to put things in the way they should be. Too late perhaps," writes Anthony. This is a very conspicuous statement.


        JE comments: A case could be made for all nations being "historical illusions," in the "imagined communities" sense outlined by Benedict Anderson.  But nations also have borders, armies, and institutions, all of which have real power over real people.  Spain in this sense is not only not an illusion, it is arguably the oldest nation of the modern world (1469).


        Should we return to Ortega y Gasset?  In his España Invertebrada (1921), Ortega predicted that Spain would fall apart under its regional divisions.  A lot of blood was shed since then to keep this from happening.  But have Ortega's prophecies finally come to pass?


        Prof. Hilton knew Ortega y Gasset, "Spain's Greatest Philosopher and Germany's Fifth Greatest."  Here's the only WAIS reference I found to España Invertebrada, from 2002:



        http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=61250&objectTypeId=55500&topicId=39



        While we're at it, let's revisit a classic RH post from the last millennium.  Note how Our Founder mastered the sweeping mini-essay.  In 200 words or so, this one touches on Ortega, intellectuals in general, and the evils of smoking.  I wish I could do that.


        http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=61400&objectTypeId=55650&topicId=39


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        • Is Spain a "Historical Illusion"? (Anthony J Candil, USA 11/17/14 1:24 AM)
          I apologize if with my reasoning I'm giving off such strong and hard sentiments, as our friend José Ignacio Soler suggests (16 November).

          I'm going try to give an explanation.


          John E mentioned Ortega y Gasset, who said when talking about the making of Spain that "a reconquest that takes 800 years is not a reconquest; it is something different."  In my view this is perhaps the origin of everything. Noble kings and princes who fought against the Arabs then didn't do this for the building of Spain. They were just grabbing land for themselves and their successors. They harbored no feelings or noble ideas of motherland and country. The idea of Spain is a much more modern one.


          When Christopher Columbus came to America, he claimed the land "in the name of the kingdom of Castile," and the Aragonese and Catalan sailors claimed the south of Italy and Sicily "in the name of the kingdom of Aragon." Even so, Aragon and Castile were often at odds with each other. Nobody then said the word "Spain."


          Even Emperor Charles I, or Charles V if you see him from the Germanic perspective, had no such feeling. For him his kingdom, or empire, was not Spain but Spain plus today's Germany and Poland--and Austria and the Netherlands including Belgium, of course. He didn't care much in the end, as proven by the fact that he divided his empire between his brother Ferdinand and his son Philip, to be known as Philip II.


          It was then when the name of Spain was used more widely, but Philip II was the main architect of the decline, no matter how revered he is in Spain, and he started to lose the inheritance he received from his father. Just a hint, even his ambassador then to the English Court, to Queen Elizabeth I, was known as "the infante of Castile" and not the ambassador of Spain (by the way that's where the name of Elephant Castle in London, where El Infante apparently had his residence, comes from, as the English people likely didn't pronounce it correctly).  His descendants, Philip III, Philip IV and Charles II, put an end to everything. After Charles II, Spain was already not very important.


          And then an impostor came. Someone who had no right whatsoever to occupy the Spanish throne, Philippe d'Anjou, a Frenchman and grandson of Louis XIV, whose design was to stop Spain and Austria from joining together once more. The real origins of the Catalonian problem started then.


          And, what else can I say? The whole thing goes on and on.


          Spanish Republicans used to say at some moments during the Civil War, "Down with Spain, long live Russia, long live to Stalin," what can you say?


          When today you ask a Spanish mother if she will allow her son to die for keeping Spain united and she naturally refuses, what can you say?


          When you fly the Spanish colors in front of your home and people label you a Fascist, and displaying the Spanish flag earns you a lot of weird looks if not something much worse, what can you say?


          When only one-third of Spaniards declare they will take arms to defend Spain, and the defense budgets are the lowest in the galaxy, what can you say?


          When military people are instructed not to wear their uniforms in public places because it's not politically correct, what can you say?


          When for longer than I can remember the Spanish National Anthem still has no words, what can you say?


          Someone has written these days that maybe the pride of being Spanish and the Spanish realm will come from Latin America, where people like José Ignacio feel much more Spanish than Spaniards really do themselves.


          About me, yes, I was born in Spain and most of my family lives still there, but I've seen maybe too much to continue believing.


          Is Spain a "historical illusion"? Perhaps yes, and I think so, but I really don't know anymore.


          JE comments:  Illusion is one thing; dysfunction another.  And pride of nation is something slightly different.  Anthony Candil is spot-on with his historical overview (except that Charles V's empire included only a small part of modern-day Poland...and very few Republicans were Stalinists), but we should keep in mind that the modern nation-states in Europe didn't come into existence until probably the 18th century.  (Spain, arguably, had done so in the 17th.)  Italy and Germany didn't even exist until the second half of the 19th, and the upstart US had a civil war to decide what kind of nation it was.  Are these countries "illusions," too?


          I am intrigued by Anthony's observation that Latin Americans have a greater pride in their "Spanishness" than Spaniards themselves.  We shouldn't generalize, but I've observed the same thing on many occasions--especially from Argentines and Cubans, who seem to be the most eager to claim their Spanish ancestry.  There may be something analogous here with the pride shown by Irish-Americans.

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    • Catalonia Referendum: Response to Jordi Molins (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/15/14 4:26 AM)
      I read Jordi Molins's post (13 November) on the Catalonian referendum with great care and consideration. I greatly respect Jordi and the 2+ million Catalonians who showed up to vote, their enthusiasm and joy, and the touching descriptions Jordi gave. But despite the good intentions of independentist volunteers in charge of the ballot boxes, and despite the opinions of the so-called "neutral" international inspectors expressed in a Catalonian newspaper, I still believe that without the basic democratic conditions, accepted worldwide, that I mentioned in my previous post, it is hard to consider the Catalonian "referendum" "fiable i eficaç." These include:

      • An accurate centralized Electoral Roll for validation and identification of voters.




      • A neutral and independent institution in charge of the voting process and the counting of votes.




      • A proper oversight of the necessarily pre-sealed ballot boxes.




      • The possibility of auditing the result.



      • The absence of propaganda or ideology manipulation of the event by officials in charge of the event.



      None of the above were present in this "referendum," so the risk of potential manipulation should have been obvious. Of course one is free to choose what one wants to believe.  To have faith and credibility based on one's own perceptions and beliefs is a very individual matter.


      To argue that "this event had been viciously attacked by the Spanish government" is again rhetorical.  The referendum was illegal and nothing more. If the government wanted to really stop it by force or any other means they would probably have done so; they had the resources. Jordi also mentioned that "the Spanish government has not said there were voting irregularities during that day. Of course, they would have done so with gusto if it had happened."  This could also be interpreted that if the official government position defined the event as "illegal," it would be inconsistent to admit or point out possible irregularities. The government dismissed it as an opposition political manifestation, so they were probably not interested to quantifying the flaws.


      The anecdote mentioned by Jordi regarding somebody voting several times is not unique.  A similar thing happened to a friend, according to what he told me yesterday (by the way he is an independentist).  He also voted twice, because the people in charge of the ballot boxes did not verify his address and it was impossible to cross check whether he had already voted (hence the need for a reliable Electoral Roll).  For obvious reasons I cannot divulge his name, so again it is a matter of trust in testimonies. However, the incident quoted by Jordi, "that three friends went to vote in three different places (each was assigned to vote in a different location). The same person put the envelope with the vote inside the ballot box," seems far-fetched.  At the very least it reflects the lack of formality or strictness in the process.


      I am not going to elaborate further on whether the result was an accurate representation of voter opinion or not.  However, of course under the premise proposed by Jordi that it "was very successful" beyond expectations, I stand by my previous comment that even not taking into account 1) that the electoral base (people eligible for voting) for this event was even much greater that the official one, and 2) the event was promoted by independentist and consequently the people motivated to vote were supporters, the 33% turnout in this crucial independence issue is very scarce compared to others in the same subject, such as Scotland more than 90%, or Quebec at 87%.


      In this sense If I were an independentist, I would rather not consider the event outcome so optimistically.


      JE comments:  So after our analysis of the referendum, what now?  In the old days, when you seceded the first thing you did was mobilize the militia and send ambassadors to drum up international support.  Does Catalonia even have a militia?  In the wake of Sunday's referendum, Madrid and Barcelona have begun a game of chicken.  The question is whether the stakes for this game are high or very low.  Remember the "Phoney War" of 1939-'40?


      Might there be behind-the-scenes talks for a new, improved "Super Autonomy" for Catalonia within Spain?


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  • Perspectives on the Catalonia Referendum (Massoud Malek, USA 11/14/14 11:25 AM)
    On 12 November, José Ignacio Soler wrote:

    "The obvious difference between the [referendum] turnout in Scotland vs Catalonia is that in the former case, [it] was legal and binding. The Catalonian 'referendum' lacked a democratic basis, while the Scottish vote was most probably not only legal and binding but also organized and executed democratically."


    One of the greatest gifts that Jean-Paul Sartre gave to humanity is the phrase: "It is forbidden to forbid."


    At the end of the 18th century, a few highly intelligent men wrote a document that gave hope to anyone born in the United States of America.  They called it the Constitution.


    In 1975, Generalissimo Fransisco Franco, one of the greatest criminals of the 20th century, died peacefully in his bed. Less than three years later, a few Francoist politicians and judges who got their high rankings by promoting Franco's inhuman policy, decided to write the Spanish Constitution. Without reading any of the democratic documents available to them, those fascist judges and politicians wrote a flawed document and called it the Spanish Constitution. In their document, they absolutely forbid giving hope to their citizens. They wrote that anyone who believes in self-determination should be punished.


    I am surprised that José, who lives in a country where hope is distributed equally among people, tells us that Catalans are breaking the law, because they are deciding to protect their culture and freeing themselves from the Spanish Constitution.


    While grandmas in wheelchairs were voting in an independence referendum in Barcelona, supporters of Franco, including a young girl, were giving fascist salutes in Madrid.





    http://www.helpcatalonia.cat/2012/12/fascism-rears-ugly-head-in-spain-as.html



    JE comments:  Spain's constitution is a far cry from a repressive document, and while we're at it, let's not forget that no region of the United States is free to secede.  That question was answered already by 1865.


    José Ignacio Soler would probably question the claim that hope is "distributed equally" in today's Venezuela.



    "To forbid":  I don't want to offend Sartre, but isn't that the very definition of private property?  "I forbid you to use my stuff--and I have the legal power to do so."

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    • Perspectives on the Catalonia Referendum (Eugenio Battaglia, Italy 11/15/14 3:47 AM)
      I did not want to enter into the diatribe about the problems of Catalonia, but I feel that maybe I should add a few reflections, especially in reference to Massoud Malek's post of 14 November.

      A referendum in which less than 50% + 1 of the registered electorate actually votes could be considered null and void by lacking of enough participation (this by Italian law).


      The example of a huge victory (81%) by a small percentage of voters (36%) can only indicate that a motivated minority, but a minority nonetheless, was in favor of the proposal.


      Returning to the inappropriate use of the word "fascist," I again wish to state that in Spain only the Falange and its martyr Josè Antonio Primo de Rivera should be considered Spanish Fascists. This label certainly is not the case for Franco, nor does it apply to those who wrote the present Spanish Constitution. (By the way, I would like to know a Constitution that does not oppose secession.)


      About Massoud's reference to the "hideous crime" of making a fascist salute, what can I say? As a "provocation," I will respond that it should be viewed as an innocuous manifestation of freedom of expression.



      Let me invite Massoud to study what the Italian Fascism of Mussolini really was, what it achieved and what it tried to achieve, instead of referring to the obsolete Psychological Warfare Department propaganda.


      JE comments:  Eugenio Battaglia keeps us honest about bandying about "fascist" in a non-historical way.  And historical rigor is the WAIS way of doing things.


      "One nation, under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all":  it just occurred to me that the United States nips secessionist thoughts in the bud, starting with its youngest citizens.  I was intoning the pledge at school long before I knew what "indivislble" means.


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      • US Midterm Elections, Catalonian Secession, and Spain's Constitution (Massoud Malek, USA 11/16/14 9:00 AM)
        On 6 November, Randy Black wrote:

        "Is it any wonder that Senate Democrats suffered their most serious setback in 65 years? The record demonstrates that the majority of our nation's voters recognized that it was the President and his Senate Democrats who were impeding action in the Senate? Voters corrected this matter Tuesday [November 4th] in a landslide victory for the Republicans in the Senate and the House."


        On 15 November, Eugenio Battaglia wrote:


        "A referendum in which less than 50% + 1 of the registered electorate actually votes could be considered null and void by lacking of enough participation (this by Italian law)." Later in his post, Eugenio wanted to know if there is a Constitution of any nation that does not oppose secession.


        When commenting my post of 14 November, John E wrote:


        "Spain's constitution is a far cry from a repressive document, and while we're at it, let's not forget that no region of the United States is free to secede. That question was answered already by 1865."


        On 4 November, Just 36.3 percent of eligible voters cast votes--the worst turnout in 72 years. Only the 1942 election (33.9 percent) had a lower rate of voter turnout. Only 28.5 percent (the second lowest percentage) of registered voters in Randy's state (Texas) voted. Less than 20 percent of registered voters felt that Republicans should govern for the next two years. Should we call the victory of less than 20 percent of registered voters a landslide victory by the majority of our nation's voters?


        These victorious Republicans even elected a senator [Joni Ernst] who told Iowans in her YouTube video: "I grew up castrating hogs on an Iowa farm. So in Washington, I'll know how to cut pork. Washington is full of big spenders; let's make them squeal."


        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9Y24MFOfFU


        As an Iowa state senator, Ernst co-sponsored resolutions concerning state nullification of federal law. One such bill asserted that Iowa could ignore any federal laws which "are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment." She has proposed eliminating the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Education, and the Environmental Protection Agency as a means of cutting federal spending.


        In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson described the thirteen colonies as "free and independent states." In Texas v White (1869), the United States Supreme Court ruled unilateral secession unconstitutional, while commenting that revolution or consent of the states could lead to a successful secession. How could someone who believed in free and independent states co-author a document that makes secession unconstitutional?


        I should remind our editor that the pledge of allegiance, which was written by Francis Bellamy, a minister who wanted to indoctrinate American schoolchildren with a nationalist message, has no legal basis on the subject of secession. The same way that no one is forced to believe in God, once he or she stops attending school.


        A 2014 Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 23.9 percent of Americans supported their state seceding from the union if necessary; 53.3 percent opposed the idea. Republicans were somewhat more supportive than Democrats. Respondents cited issues like gridlock, governmental overreach, the Affordable Care Act and a loss of faith in the federal government as reasons for secession.


        Gabriel Cisneros, a conservative politician and one of the seven co-authors of the Spanish Constitution of 1978, also helped to write laws pertaining to the Basque statute and autonomy. His work with Basque law made Cisneros a kidnapping target. Cisneros survived a 1979 kidnapping attempt by the Basque separatist group ETA. Cisneros managed to fight off and escape two kidnappers, but suffered gunshot wounds to his stomach and leg.


        Manuel Fraga Iribarne was another co-author of the Spanish Constitution. As interior minister and head of state security during the first days of the Spanish transition to democracy, he had a reputation for heavy-handedness. The phrase "¡La calle es mía!" ("The streets are mine!") was attributed to him as his answer to complaints of police repression of street protests. He claimed that the streets did not belong to "people" but to the state. During a clash at the Church of St. Francis of Assisi between police and striking workers, on Fraga's orders the police stormed into a packed church into which 4,000 demonstrators had retreated.  The police went on a shooting spree, resulting in five dead and over 100 wounded.


        Finally, about fascism:


        I hope Eugenio Battaglia is not criticizing me for not praising Franco, who was responsible for killing of over 113,000 of his own citizens. Although fascism started in Italy with Mussolini, this doesn't mean that we should condone fascism, just because in Eugenio's view, Mussolini was a great man.


        Source:


        http://news.yahoo.com/voter-turnout-2014-midterms-worst-in-72-years-143406756.html


        JE comments:  Regarding the Pledge of Allegiance, I never said it's a legally
        binding oath.  I merely observed that the "indivisibility" of the United
        States is taught to children at a very tender age.  Let's call it a gentle, loving brainwashing.


        Joni Ernst's "Let's make 'em squeal" will emerge as the enduring soundbite of the 2014 elections.  It strikes me as strange that voters would elect a proud practitioner of castration...


        I just learned that Senator-Elect Ernst is from Red Oak, Iowa, the "birthplace of the art calendar industry."  This one hangs in our kitchen (yeah, I know it's a tad out of date).  Nobody today calls himself "Thos."






         

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        • Mid-Term Elections 2014; Thoughts from Ric Mauricio (John Eipper, USA 11/16/14 4:45 PM)
          Our friend Ric Mauricio sends these comments:

          Whenever anyone complains of the way our government leaders work, I ask them, "Did you vote?" Unfortunately, most of the time the answer is "No, it's a waste of time." I point out to them that because their non-vote actually was a vote ... for the winner. Using this argument, one could say that because 63% of registered voters did not vote, they voted for the winner, in this case, mostly the Republicans. In Texas, as Massoud Malek (16 November) pointed out, less than 20% of registered voters voted, thus not only did the winner get the majority (51% of the 20%), the winner also got the benefit of the 80% non-votes. Ah, 91% of the votes. I would definitely call that a landslide.


          In California, I had a friend who complained about the real estate taxes his daughter had to pay on her house. I told him he voted for it. He said he didn't vote. I pointed out that because he didn't vote against it, he essentially voted for it. Besides, the Proposition 13 formula for real estate in California is dependent on the purchase price of the house. No one held a gun to her head and made her buy a million dollar plus house.


          Senator-Elect Joni Ernst illustrates a lesson in running for office. Come up with a catchy phrase that people can relate to. I think the "castrating pigs and making them squeal" was quite good; just like Ronald Reagan's "Are you better off today than you were four years ago?"


          By the way, history shows that investment markets do their best during gridlock. Now that the Republicans have the House and Senate, there may be less gridlock, thus less positive returns. OK, I'm hedging my bets here, since less positive returns doesn't mean negative returns, it just means that going forward the returns may not be as positive as we've seen since March of 2009. I'm sure the current administration will try to take credit for the great returns we've had since 2009. I have news for them:  you had nothing to do with it.


          JE comments:  Ric Mauricio has given us a counterintuitive axiom:  government gridlock yields the best investment returns.  By this metric, we should expect a bonanza through the New Year, as nothing--absolutely nothing--will happen before the new Congress takes office.


          So--sell in January?  You read it here first.


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          • on Voting; Texas Gov-Elect Greg Abbott (Randy Black, USA 11/18/14 4:58 AM)
            I've sort of held back from the election discussion of early November to see who and how in WAIS might try to spin the results to somehow justify why the Democratic Party performed so poorly.



            The discussion seemed say, "We really didn't lose because so few voted and if they had, it would have turned out differently."



            Or words to that effect. It is what it is. You don't vote, you give the choice to your neighbor. It's been that way for hundreds of years.



            I try to gently chide my wife to vote. I really don't care how she votes, but she's of the mind that "I didn't vote when I lived in the USSR because all the politicians were crooks. Why should I think that it's any different here? Why bother?" To some degree, she's got her point. By the way, I voted a split ticket.

            When all the dust cleared in Texas, Republican Greg Abbott earned 2.77 million votes, which was about 950,000 more than Democrat Wendy Davis.



            One of the key vote killers for Ms. Davis was getting caught lying on her resume. For instance, she claimed that as a young welfare mother, she'd put herself through law school. Neither claim was accurate.



            Later, it seems to me that she came out as a "one-issue" candidate and sided with the President.



            On the other hand, the winner, Greg Abbott may have appeared as a one-issue candidate too. Only, in his case, it was an anti-Obama position. Apparently, his position was stronger in Texas.



            Plus, near the end and grasping at straws, when the polls said she was down to Abbott by a ton, Davis ran new TV commercials that criticized Abbott for the fact that he won a lawsuit as a young man after being disabled and restricted to a wheelchair for life due to an accident.



            Personally, criticizing a person because they are wheelchair limited for life is not a great campaign tactic. Even other prominent Democrats turned on her. It turned out that the polls were spot-on.



            On the Hispanic front, with many of the Democrats believing that they owned the Hispanic vote, according to the New York Times, Nov. 5: Texas, the state with the second-largest Hispanic population--17 percent of the electorate--governor-elect  Abbott, defeated the underdog campaign of Davis, winning 44 percent of the Hispanic vote, while Davis took 55 percent. Background: In 2010, Gov. Rick Perry, also a Republican, won his race with 38 percent of Latinos according to the NY Times.



            Thus, it's clear that the Hispanics no longer flow like lemmings to a Democrat just because they are Democrats. Ditto in Georgia, where Republican Nathan Deal won the governorship by capturing 47 percent of the Hispanic voters.



            Additional sources: http://dfw.cbslocal.com/2014/11/05/texas-voter-turnout-down-compared-to-2010/



            JE comments:  I somehow didn't know until now that Gov-Elect Abbott is a paraplegic.  According to Wikipedia, he was hit by an oak tree in 1984, while running after a storm.  That's about as freakish as freak accidents get.  I didn't follow the Texas gubernatorial race, but I wonder if Wendy Davis tried to profit politically from the fact that Abbott received a $10 million settlement ($14,000 per month), but then as Attorney General favored limiting medical lawsuits to double the actual economic damages plus $750,000.  If this was her strategy, it was not smart:  nobody likes people who pick on the handicapped.


            My friends and family in Texas are all suffering from Rick Perry fatigue.  When Randy Black has the chance, I'd like to hear his thoughts on what to expect from the new governor.


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        • Joni Ernst and Castration (Randy Black, USA 11/17/14 1:59 AM)
          First things first: In his comments to Massoud Malek's post of 16 November, John Eipper said, "[Iowa Senator-Elect] Joni Ernst's 'Let's make 'em squeal' will emerge as the enduring soundbite of the 2014 elections. It strikes me as strange that voters would elect a proud practitioner of castration..."

          RB: I agree with the concept of making the Tax and Spend Democrats and Republicans squeal. And why would Iowa not want "one of their own" (former) pig farmers in Washington? That state leads the nation in pork production. Ernst's parents were pig farmers, as are many Iowans.


          I hope that John is offering such comments tongue-in-cheek as I am.


          However, the group named Citizens Against Government Waste is legendary for its annual report on Pork-Barrel Spending awards. Their Congressional Pig Book, dating to 1991, is a great, if not sad, commentary.


          See: http://cagw.org/reporting/pig-book


          "Cutting the pork" is one of the most popular claims by candidates from both parties when they get to DC. Moreover, there is no claim by Joni Ernst that she is a "proud practitioner of castration."


          The Senator-elect is 44 years old, not 16 as she was when she learned to "cut pork."


          It was "when she grew up," not "now." That claim relates to her humble growing up years, as in her teens before she was high school valedictorian of her class in the 1980s. She also earned her BS from Iowa State and her Masters of Public Administration degree from Columbus College.


          In fact, when she is not serving as a lieutenant colonel and commander of the 185th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion, the largest battalion in the Iowa Army National Guard (21 years service in the US Army reserve and the Iowa National Guard, 14 months service in Kuwait and Operation Iraqi Freedom), the US Senator-elect, is serving her state, as she has since 2004. When she takes the Oath of Office in January, she will become the first female military veteran in the US Senate.


          As for me, I'm happy that Iowa is sending someone to Washington who knows how to cut pork. There seems to be a fear among liberals of such a person in Washington. Don't misunderstand me; pork-barrel spending knows no political bounds. Every party has such nonsense.


          Now, regarding Massoud's post, he wrote: "As an Iowa state senator, Ernst co-sponsored resolutions concerning state nullification of federal law. One such bill asserted that Iowa could ignore any federal laws which 'are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment.'" And so? Did her speeches have any impact on anyone or existing federal law? This country remains a country with the rights to free speech.


          How does Massoud feel about the cabinet level order to our Border Patrol to "stand down" and release known criminals who repeatedly enter the US from any direction?


          Joni Ernst only allegedly proposed Federal law exemptions; Our president and or his minions actually rewrote existing federal law when he directed sworn federal border patrols to stop enforcing existing laws.


          Regarding Massoud's comments on secession, he is somehow under the impression there are serious threats by any state to secede? When, who and where?


          While all 50 states, or 58 if you're Barack Obama, have seen individuals file petitions for secession, few Americans take them seriously. No state has submitted a petition, thus the matter among individuals is largely symbolic and has no legal standing.


          For the May 2008 quote "I've been to all 57 states with one left to go" video, see:


          http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EpGH02DtIws&feature=player_embedded


          Okay, it's fair to say that he was apparently tired. At least that's the excuse offered by his PR minion.


          JE comments: My comment about a castrator who happens to be female was in poor taste. Sorry about that--but Joni Ernst started it!  As a curiosity, I just Googled Joni Ernst castration and got 36,000 hints.  Try Hillary Clinton castration, and you'll get 108,000.

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    • Catalonia, Spain, and Hope; Response to Massoud Malek (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 11/17/14 6:46 AM)
      It is not my intention to debate Massoud Malek´s somewhat prejudicial opinion on the Spanish constitution (see his post of 14 November). But some of his comments deserve a response.  When Massoud calls Spain's constitution "fascist" in nature (as he suggests), we must remember that it was legally approved by referendum by a majority of Spaniards, even in Catalonia. I understand that this has been a normal procedure in most the countries. I would not dare to accuse the Iranian constitution of being anti-democratic because it was elaborated after a revolution that took power by force (is that not that what the "fascists" would do?), and consequently could be qualified of being illegitimate by origin. That would be absurd.

      Returning to the point in question, it should not surprise anyone that there is not a constitution in the whole world that includes procedures for territorial independence or allows secession, so the Spanish document is not an exception; furthermore, the Spanish constitution allows referendums for secession, if and only if the whole country participates in the decision. The rationale behind this is that the country's sovereignty is a matter for the whole country, not of a single region. Maybe this justification is not "democratically" justified for many, but I just wonder what would be the position, in a hypothetical situation of course, if tomorrow a single Catalonian province, Gerona, Tarragona (or a province in Iran for that matter) decided to claim its right to be independent. Would they be so "democratic" as to allow such a claim? I am not so sure.  Time would tell.


      I myself was very astonished by Massoud's comment, "I am surprised that José, who lives in a country where hope is distributed equally among people, tells us that Catalans are breaking the law, because they are deciding to protect their culture and freeing themselves from the Spanish Constitution."


      First, I am not sure if Massoud is aware that I live in Venezuela, where it is far from true that "hope is distributed equally among people." Maybe I misunderstood his statement, or maybe he refers to another imaginary "Venezuela" that he knows much better than I do after 40 years living in this country. It would be very interesting to understand precisely what Massoud really meant.


      Second, it is very unlike that Catalonians are in danger of having their culture threatened in any way. As I tried to say in a previous post, never in their history have Catalonians had more autonomy in political, economical, social, educational or cultural matters, even beyond their specific constitutional rights. As a matter of fact the political system of "Comunidades Autónomas" in Spain is quite similar to a common well-known Federal system.


      JE comments: Let us not forget, for example, that Spain's Basques have far more autonomy than their compatriots in France. The brutal truth is that France worked very hard to stamp out regional identities at least from the time of Napoleon.  The dirty work out is of the way, and France is largely free of the types of "problems" Spain is now experiencing.



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      • Nationalism: UK, Prussia, France (David A. Westbrook, USA 11/17/14 11:54 AM)
        John Eipper's response to Anthony Candil (17 November) was perhaps a bit overstated--Germany and Italy are the extreme examples of late-blooming nationalism. France and England are both understood as nation-states much earlier. Many other places developed a national, as distinct from feudal, apparatus, perhaps with/without a king. Consider Prussia. Or Switzerland, which though decentralized, has always understood itself as a unit.

        As for John's response to José Ignacio Soler (also 17 November), I would argue that the story of medieval France is the expansion of the power of the King/Paris, especially against Normandy/England (all the way back to Joan) and Burgundy stretching up into the Low Countries. All this was taking place much before Napoleon.


        JE comments:  David A. Westbrook and I just exchanged a couple of e-mails on this topic while I was proctoring a Spanish exam.  I cobbled his two messages together for this post (with David/Bert's permission, of course).  The lesson to be learned here:  watch what you say, as you'll probably end up on WAIS!


        Can we get some arbitration on French history?  At what point did France begin to suppress regional identities and languages?  I had thought under Napoleon, but can we trace it as far back as the Middle Ages?  My underlying question is why France is so cohesive, and Spain isn't.


        WAISer Robert McCabe divides his time between Paris and Normandy, and he might even argue against the notion of a cohesive France.  Bob:  we'd love to hear from you!

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      • Catalonia, Iran, Self-Determination; Response to Jose Ignacio Soler (Massoud Malek, USA 11/18/14 6:25 AM)
        This is a response to José Ignacio Soler's post of 17 November.

        José Ignacio mentioned my country of birth to convince WAISers that the Catalonian referendum is illegal.


        He wrote:


        "I would not dare to accuse the Iranian constitution of being anti-democratic because it was elaborated after a revolution that took power by force (is that not that what the 'fascists' would do?), and consequently could be qualified of being illegitimate by origin... If tomorrow a single Catalonian province, Gerona, Tarragona (or a province in Iran for that matter) decided to claim its right to be independent. Would they be so 'democratic' as to allow such a claim? I am not so sure. Time would tell."


        A few years after the US War of Independence and the Declaration of Independence, the American Constitution was written. Based on Jose Ignacio's logic, the US Constitution is a fascist document, because of violence involved before it was written. History tells us that after any revolution, bloody or bloodless, a new constitution was born.


        I have been to Spain several times, enjoy its literature and art greatly, and also studied its history. Does José Ignacio know that the most powerful man in Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei, is not even Persian? He is a Turk from Mashhad. Turks from Azerbaijan and Mashhad run Iran's economy and Tehran's bazar. Iranian and Iraqi Kurds cross the respective borders without any problem. Unlike Turkish Kurds who couldn't even have a TV station until a few years ago, Iranian Kurds have their own schools, and there are several Kurdish TV stations. Several movies in Iran are made in the Kurdish language. There are a few thousand Kurdish separatists in Iran. During and after the Soviet Union dissolution of 1991, thousands of Azerbaijanis came to Iran to live.


        In 2008, the country's Jews rejected an Israeli initiative to compel Iran's Jewish community to immigrate to Israel using cash incentives, calling the offer "inappropriate and politically immature. Jewish Iranian identity is not a commodity that passes from the hands of one merchant to another in return for money."


        At a tender age, Iranian children are indoctrinated by the following poem of the 13th century Persian poet Saadi:


        "Human beings are members of a whole,

        In creation of one essence and soul.

        If one member is afflicted with pain,

        The other limbs cannot remain at rest."


        This poem graces the entrance to the Hall of Nations of the UN building in New York.


        Cyrus the Great introduce the concept of human rights over 25 centuries ago. Iranians who read Persian poetry and admire Cyrus have a better understanding of human rights, including Catalonian rights.


        It is true that I abhor any type of fascist salute practiced in Madrid. When judges who write the Spanish Constitution commit repression after writing the constitution, I consider the document unworthy of ruling a great nation. Today there are millions of people in Spain who worship the remains of a criminal dictator named Fransisco Franco, but the majority of Spanish people don't accept anything but democracy.


        In one of his posts, José Ignacio told us about his life in Venezuela, so I know that he is not very happy with what is going on in Venezuela. But I should remind him that many Venezuelans who lived in abject poverty before Chávez came to power have a decent life now. When José Ignacio visited Cuba, he had nothing good to say about that country. Finally, for the last few months, he tries to convince us that the idea of Catalonian independence is unacceptable and any referendum is unlawful.


        Later José Ignacio wrote:


        "Spanish document is not an exception; furthermore, the Spanish constitution allows referendums for secession, if and only if the whole country participates in the decision. The rationale behind this is that the country's sovereignty is a matter for the whole country, not of a single region."


        How could José Ignacio, who tries to convince us that the referendum in Caltalonia is illegal, prove to us that the Scottish referendum was legal? What was the rationale behind Britain allowing Scotland to practice its right of secession?


        Is José Ignacio telling me that based on the fact that I was born in Iran, I should never be allowed to give my opinion on Tibet? I assume that the Chinese Constitution allows referendums for secession, if and only if the whole 1.5 billion Chinese participates in the decision. Tell the editors of all the newspapers and magazines that they should never question the Chinese repression of Tibetan people. Ask the Nobel committee to revoke Dalai Lama's Nobel Prize, because his fight is illegal.


        About Secession:


        Only Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, the great legal mind who imposed "Citizens United" on us, believes that secession is illegal. He naively argues:


        "If there was any constitutional issue resolved by the Civil War, it is that there is no right to secede. (Hence, in the Pledge of Allegiance, 'one Nation, indivisible.')"


        Please read his letter at:


        http://www.newyorkpersonalinjuryattorneyblog.com/2010/02/scalia-there-is-no-right-to-secede.html


        Opinions expressed in this Forum have no boundaries. Self-determination is one of the human rights that should be respected by high-minded people. Native of Spain and China have no right to criticize an Iranian born for expressing his opinion about Catalonia or Tibet.


        JE comments: I must come to the defense of José Ignacio Soler: in his post of 17 November he was specifically not criticizing the Iranian constitution, or the Iranian people's right to compose it as they see fit.  Massoud Malek's reaction here confuses me, as José Ignacio was far more generous about the Iranian regime that most US observers would be.


        I'm also puzzled by Massoud's claim that only Justice Scalia would oppose a secessionist movement in the US.  I would wager my retirement portfolio that a secession case would go down 0-9 in the Supreme Court.


        As for José Ignacio's excellent travelogue (20 January) on his Cuba visit, I invite WAISers to judge for themselves about its balance and bias--or lack thereof.  I translated this long report into English, so I know it almost by heart.  It's one of my favorite WAIS pieces of 2014:



        http://waisworld.org/go.jsp?id=02a&objectType=post&o=82028&objectTypeId=70955&topicId=190


        Our beloved President Emeritus Bill Ratliff sent a comment.  He passed away only a few months later.  When I saw Bill in March, just weeks before he died, we made tentative plans to travel to Cuba together...someday.  Sadly, this will never happen.  If and when I make the trip, Bill will be in my thoughts.


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